It is hard to believe our “See the USA” series has reached the letter Y, and the end is in sight. We are exploring the country as we make our way through the alphabet each and every week. This week brings us to Y, and instead of a city, we are going to feature a National Park. Victoria of Celebrate the Weekend is showcasing the beauty of Yosemite for us. If you missed last week we covered Xenia, Ohio and we had Waikoloa on the big island of Hawaii the week before. I haven’t been to many National Parks, but I was impressed by all the family friendly things to do in Yosemite!
The Top 5 Family Friendly Things to Do in Yosemite
With its 800 miles of hiking trails and a total size of 747,956 acres, the grandeur of natural beauty at Yosemite National Park in California might be overwhelming. Surprisingly, we found that there are plenty of family-friendly choices in the Park for family members of all physical abilities to enjoy! Here are our top 5 family friendly activities to enjoy in Yosemite.
Tunnel View, Yosemite
1. Stay in Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village)
There is a range of lodging choices in the park – from bring your own tent campsites to luxurious hotel rooms – but only Half Dome Village offers an opportunity to stay close to nature while enjoying the modern conveniences in a unique atmosphere of international camping village. We stayed in a canvas tent cabin that offered the beds with bed linens and blankets and towels for communal bathhouses. There is a swimming pool, postal office, club house, dining hall and a pizza parlor, and even Wi-Fi at the public lounge- all with spectacular views. There is ranger-led evening programming in a camp theater.
In Front of our Tent at Half Dome Village
**Remember, no matter what lodging option you choose, booking well in advance is recommended. Here is link to Yosemite’s web site that allows reservations one year and one day ahead.
2. Go on a family-friendly hike
There are several easy hikes at Yosemite, and some are even paved and stroller-friendly, such as Glacier Point, Cook’s Meadow Loop and Yosemite Fall trails. Here is a link to Yosemite’s website with an easy to follow hikes guide separated by park areas and level of difficulty.
We chose a moderate level hike to the Footbridge of Vernal Fall. While relatively short (1.4 miles round trip), it was considered a moderate trail due to the 400 feet elevation.
3. Take a Park Shuttle
Leaving your car behind in a parking lot and using free Yosemite Valley shuttle is not only the right (nature-conscious!) thing to do in the Park, it is also a fun and relaxing way to see the park! The Valley shuttle takes you to some of the most iconic Yosemite sights: the Tunnel View, El Capitan and Lower Yosemite Falls (there is also a bus to Mariposa Grove in the summer). There are also several guided routes (these ones are fee-based). We took a 2-hour ranger-narrated Valley Floor Tour ($25 for adults; $13 for kids 5-13).
Water break on a shuttle Valley tour
There is also a half-day tour to the Glacier Point. We booked our tour in the Visitor’s Center in the Half Dome Camp early in morning on the day of the tour (the Centers are open year around in the Valley and seasonally in other areas of the Park).
4. Drive Tioga Road and stop at Tenaya Lake
Tasting the waters at Tenaya Lake (very cold!)
All of the roads leading in or out of the Yosemite are scenic, but Tioga Road (also known as highway 120/East entrance to the park), with its 39 miles of meadows, sequoia groves, blue lakes and granite domes is probably the most scenic. Tioga road is typically open from late May through sometime in November (check current road conditions here).
5. Take advantage of the Junior Ranger Program
The Junior Ranger Program (for kids ages 7-13) as well as the other special kids’ activities, are offered in the Half Dome Village and throughout the rest of the park. Be sure to check the Park newspaper Yosemite Guide (available in the park free of charge) for the complete list of daily family activities.
Victoria and her family are behind the Celebrate the Weekend blog where they invite families to follow them along on their weekend (and vacation) celebrations – whether it is within an hour from their home in a suburb of Boston or across the globe.